The United States finally confirmed its participation in the 2010 Shanghai World Expo with a signing ceremony in Pudong New Area yesterday.
A short time later, the European Union, which has never taken part in a World Expo outside a member country, also signed a participation contract.
"We are not late, we are just in time," Jose Villarreal, the newly appointed commissioner general for the US Expo effort, said after signing a contract on behalf of the US government with Hong Hao, director general of the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination.
"We finally welcome the 240th confirmed participant to the Shanghai Expo -- the United States of America," Hong said at the signing ceremony at the bureau's headquarters.
The figure for confirmed participants beat the last Expo, held in 2005 in Aichi, Japan, which was attended by 121 countries and four international organizations.
It has been more than three years since Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sent an Expo invitation to the US government, Hong said.
"Today we can finally say that we are rising to the challenge -- we are participating," said Beatrice Camp, the US consul general in Shanghai.
She was referring to the theme of America's exhibition, "Rising to the Challenge," which is in keeping with the overall theme of the Expo, "Better City, Better Life." The challenges to be addressed include creating environmentally sustainable communities, engaging in a healthy lifestyle and using technology to improve the lives of all types of people.
The US Pavilion -- at a planned size of 5,600 square meters, it will be one of the biggest -- will provide a picture of what US cities might look like in 2030.
Funding for the pavilion has proved to be a challenge, as US law prohibits the use of State Department money to pay for participation in World Expos and most potential corporate sponsors are facing hard times in the global economic downturn.
Construction and fund-raising will proceed simultaneously, said Ellen Eliasoph, co-chair of Shanghai World Expo 2010 Inc, the non-profit company that is undertaking the funding, design, construction and operation of the US Pavilion.
The US group has raised about half of the US$61 million needed to build and run the pavilion and is optimistic it will obtain the rest. The budget includes about US$20 million for construction, US$20 million for production of the pavilion's shows and promotions, with the rest set aside for operations during the six-month Expo period.
"Our May 1 pavilion opening next year will be a proud moment for everyone involved in the US Pavilion effort," Villarreal said.
He said the group has developed a detailed timetable to build the pavilion but declined to say when construction would begin. "We will be on time and schedule," he said.
Three hours after the US ceremony, the EU signed its own participation contract with the Expo organizer. The EU plans to showcase its efforts in environmental protection, energy conservation, transportation and product safety under the theme of "Intelligent Europe," said Serge Abou, the EU's ambassador to China and the EU's commissioner general to the Expo.
The EU's Expo participation reflects the importance of the Sino-EU partnership and the "strength and vitality of the European business and cultural community in Shanghai," Abou said.
The EU will have a 1,000-square-meter exhibition space on the ground floor of the two-story Belgium Pavilion.
It will share the cost with Belgium, which will take the presidency of the union during the 2010 event. All 27 member states of the European Union have confirmed participation as well.
Source: Shanghai Daily